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Krem: A Ghost County Seat

If you were to drive about 8 miles north-northeast of Hazen, you would find two cemeteries and an old flour mill. If you got out and walked around, you might be lucky enough to chance upon an old basement. These are the remnants of Krem, short for Crimea, a name given to it from the many German-Russian immigrants that settled there around the early 1900s. Although it is abandoned now, Krem was once a strong contender for the Mercer County seat against Stanton, nearly taking it in 1906.

Krem had been growing since 1902, when Martin Netzer built the first general store. Soon after in 1903, William Richter opened another general store. The two businesses began viciously competing, which helped Krem become a central hotspot of trade for the county. This growth is what made Krem a popular contender for county seat when courthouse in Stanton burned down in December of 1905.

Krem had widespread support. The Bismarck Tribune said, “It is likely that the county seat of Mercer County will be moved to Krem at the coming election. Krem is situated in the center of one of the richest sections of the state, a gently undulating country, settled for twenty years with a happy, prosperous people.” And on this date in 1906, the paper wrote, “Mercer County was having a fight, as the location of the present county seat is an outrage...The court house should be moved to Krem or some other point where someone can find out what is going on once in a while.” Two days later they reported that Krem won by a two thirds majority. However, the county auditor, Henry Sagehorn, wrote in the Manhaven Journal that, “A total of 372 votes were cast, of which 236 were in favor of moving, and 136 were against it. As this was not a two-thirds majority, the site remained at Stanton.” So even though the yays beat the nays by 100, and Krem had shipped vaults for county offices, Stanton remains the county seat to this day and Krem is just remnants.

The death knell for Krem came in 1914, when the railroad bypassed the town. Perhaps the tracks would have come had it been the county seat. It’s interesting to ponder what might have been had the town got a few more votes!

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas

Taken from Otto Richter’s Krem: A City on a Hill


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